bird nerd

I’ve spent a lot of time sitting here on my couch in the family room looking out the picture window. (I’m not sure it’s really called a ‘picture window’, but that’s what my grandma, Vivian, used to call hers and my mother, Sylvia, after her. So now that’s the description I use! I think it’s appropriate though, as it frames the beauty on the other side and offers a lovely view that pleases the eye as much or more than looking at a framed piece of art.) If all the hours I’ve spent sitting or laying here over the last decade (as I endured chemotherapy and recuperated from surgeries) were totaled, I think I may have spent a couple years of my life looking out this window! Now it’s become a happy habit to slip in and take a seat to survey the back yard; to contemplate, and to watch the birds.

female and male goldfinch and male hairy woodpecker

Before my forced couch-sabbatical, I never paid much attention to birds; I had no idea the yard was such a busy place!

When I was attending college,  I lived at home several semesters to save money. I’d take a ‘short cut’ across a golf course to get to class. (I know, I know, I shouldn’t have been walking on the golf course . . . .)  Often I’d come upon a little white-haired woman with a set of binoculars at her eyes, studying something intently through those lenses. She was a remarkable sight: petite frame, glossy white hair in a starched white shirt and pair of slacks and white tennis shoes. Her name was Mrs. Pike. She was a piano teacher at the college years before, and now in her retirement, she was busy watching birds!

I’d never seen anyone looking at birds through binoculars before. I’d never known there were people who actually watched birds! I couldn’t understand why anyone would stop their activity to look at a bird! (The only birds I knew of at that time were robins, sparrows and pigeons! They were so common, I didn’t see what would warrant a closer look!)

Now I’m a few decades older, and though I’m not of retirement age, I have come to be a bird watcher myself! (Right now, there is a male Hairy Woodpecker at the feeder. The fourth so far today. A couple of females also stopped by earlier.) It’s a bit embarrassing, really. I feel like I’m a ‘bird nerd.’ This interest just crept up on me and took me by surprise!

female downy woodpecker

As I sit here looking out the picture window, straight out from where I sit is a wooden post with 4 beams angled upward at about 45 degree angles from each side of the post. (It was here when we moved in, otherwise, I might not have become a person-amazed-by-birds!) From the left beam hangs a box-feeder which we fill with safflower seeds. The doves and cardinals love it, and apparently so do the purple house finches that keep feeding in it since I filled it moments ago. The beam hanging in front of me and the one to its right hold finch feeders. These are metal cylinders about a foot long, capped with a metal angled “roof”. On each cylinder are six ovals with perches at the bottom of each just the perfect distance below a little hole from which the finches peck and eat their food. The opposite beam from me holds a metal suet feeder which is presently empty.

female and male purple house finches

On any given day, there is a pattern to the bird visits. Morning, mid-day, and late afternoon, the doves visit the square box-feeder. Both mourning doves and turtle doves come. After them, the male and female cardinal visit, coming and going, but never staying very long, while goldfinches can be seen pretty much all day long.

Today has been a very busy day for the woodpeckers. I’m wondering if all the rain has made it difficult for them to get food elsewhere. They are magnificent to see. Such powerful, agile birds. Compared to the goldfinches, who seem so light and fluttery and flittery, the woodpeckers aggressively dart in and decisively land on the feeder. They don’t hesitate a bit.

male goldfinch in service berry tree

The doves are very wary and frighten easily. The cardinals’ chirps can be heard before they land. They move in a stilted, jerky, alert kind of way. Only once I saw a blue jay swoop in. He seemed gargantuan compared to all the other birds. Wisely, they all jetted off!

In this bird world in my backyard, I’ve had a few sobering moments. For instance, the loud crashing into the window that happens occasionally. I always feel horrible when birds try to fly through it. They dazedly land in the tree or fall on the ground to recover, leaving a few feathers plastered to the window. I hate it when that happens!

Once by some unhappy coincidence, I happened to be looking out as a sharp-shinned hawk, who lives in this area, swooped in, flushing all the birds from the tree. As they frantically scattered, he grabbed one in his talons and landed in the grass about 15 feet from me. I watched in horror as he held the bird down, while it squirmed in his talons. Once the squirming stopped, he flew off with his prey gripped tightly in his feet, leaving a ring of feathers as testimony of what had occurred only a brief moment before.

I was grateful that he decided to eat his meal elsewhere.

My reputation as a bird enthusiast is spreading. A few months ago, a friend called to describe a bird to me so I could tell her what it was! That warmed my heart! More recently, another friend told me about a new application she saw that helps you identify birds by sight and by their songs! http://iphone.ibird.com/About_Backyard.html The best part? It can be loaded on my phone! Well, of course I had to check it out!

My best friend (i.e. my husband, Les) and I sat on the couch together looking it over and it took us all of 5 minutes to decide to buy it! I’ve already used it and it’s only been one day! How exciting is that?! (How nerdy can I get!)

male cardinal and goldfinch

My children are slightly amused, if not horribly embarrassed! I’m thankful they put up with my newly found hobby!

It’s just that I’m in awe of the beauty and variety and detail of so many species! I know next to nothing, yet I know enough to be amazed by the creativity of God!

What’s more amazing is, the Bible says God knows even when a sparrow falls. He, the Almighty, the Creator of universes and galaxies, notices when a sparrow dies. It may seem crazy, but that comforts me.

My grandpa Sugden’s favorite song was, “His eye is on the sparrow, and I know He watches me.” That means that God knows the most mundane details of my life, and yours. He’s not aloof, unaware or too big and distant to notice the little things, or to notice me.

I wish I’d stopped to talk to Mrs. Pike one of those days I saw her bird-watching. I’m sure I would have learned a lot from her. She would have enjoyed telling me about some of the special birds she’d sighted. I’m certain she wasn’t embarrassed to be out there with her binoculars like I am! She, as am I, was enthralled with the glory of God expressed in his avian creation.   It’s too bad she isn’t around any more, for I’m certain she’d get a kick out of iBird!

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6 Responses to “bird nerd”

  1. Ren Says:

    Well if nothing else, you have reminded me to fill the bird feeder 🙂

  2. Karen Says:

    Thanks Kris, I needed something like this today. Thank you for always
    making you messages real.

    God bless and have an awesome day.

  3. Claudia Kaser Says:

    I forwarded this on to my mom & dad, who are also ‘bird nerds’! 🙂 As I read it, I could visualize all of those birds, because my parents have those same ones. My mom mentioned that she could add Oriels to your list, and she had just finished mixing up more food for them! And I don’t think either one of you are nerds! 🙂 Blessings!

  4. Bethany Says:

    You are an incredibly talented writer.

    I love the pictures, too. Birds are just amazing creatures – I love watching them as well.

  5. Carmen Says:

    Hey Kris! What a great blog! I also love watching birds. We have a cherry tree right outside our office window so as I’m working I can look out and see birds. We have cardinals, woodpeckers, robins, doves, sparrows, and a few others that I haven’t identified yet. Our cats also love sitting in that window and like your birds flying into your window, sometimes our cats try to jump out. 🙂

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